Video monitoring has been credited with preventing theft, solving crimes and helping authorities prosecute criminals, but now security video has helped police solve a great mystery. An auto crime spree—”hitting from New York to LA,” according to CNN— had police baffled. The target automobiles were almost always protected by security alarms. The thieves were in and out quickly, and frequently, leaving police perplexed.
Police solved the conundrum thanks to video surveillance cameras, including a dash camera installed by an enterprising car owner to protect his automobile. In a CNN report “Mystery Car Thefts Stump Police” we can see thieves walking right up to locked and alarm-protected cars, pointing what appears to be a little black box, and then opening the door. No muss, no fuss. As easy as using the owner’s key fob. (Watch video below.)
Various video footage clips—from parking lot CCTV to installed security cameras in the target cars—revealed thieves appearing to open cars “with a mysterious hand-held device,” reports the CNN News anchor. “Nobody, not even the car manufacturers, know how it works.”
In parking lot CCTV footage in Long Beach, we see not one but two hooded thieves walk up to side-by-side cars and use what appears to be a remote device to unlock the cars. In Chicago, a homeowner’s home surveillance cameras catch “the exact same scenario” reports CNN as we see a man walk up to a car and open the door. “A man by the sedan unlocks it, no key, alarm disabled by some mystery device.”
Enterprising Steven Doi of California was determined not to let thieves outsmart him. He installed a video camera on his dash mirror, pointed outward to capture any thief who approached his car. CNN reports, “The same thing happened to Steven Doi . . . the car’s computer system was hacked! But the crook didn’t get away clean.” Although he emptied out more than $3,000 worth of electronics, his face was clearly captured on the video for police. For the first time, police saw close-up images of the mystery device, thanks to Mr. Doi’s car video surveillance.
“The ease that this is working, and the frequency we’re seeing it reported throughout the U.S.,” said Mike Bender of ICW Group Insurance Co., “means it’s become a common problem.” He explains that “your car is a rolling computer.” Today, it takes sophisticated electronic devices, rather than mechanical tools, to break into cars.
Federal law enforcers are closing in. They captured a thief and one of the boxes. They knew what to look for, thanks to surveillance video.
“Surveillance video is a cornerstone of prevention and investigation,” said Maureen Campbell of iWatchLife, a do-it-yourself video surveillance service. “A video surveillance system is even more effective when it’s capable of sending real-time alerts to property owners. A cloud-based service like ours has the added advantage that even if surveillance cameras themselves are stolen or damaged, the video evidence has already been sent to the cloud and is safely stored there to be used in the investigation.”
Whether the property is home or car, video surveillance is growing in popularity, judging by the sheer volume of “criminals caught on tape” videos showing up online. Property owners are fighting back with technology.
Auto Crime Statistics: Growing at an Alarming Rate
Auto crime, either vehicle theft or theft of contents, is growing at an alarming rate, according to Statistics Canada. In Canada, 125,272 vehicles were stolen—343 each day.  That doesn’t include the much higher number of content thefts recorded annually.
In the United States, the FBI reports that the number of auto thefts in 2012 was an astounding 721,053, an increase of 0.6% over the previous year. 
“It’s important to remember that a professional thief can steal your car in about 30 seconds,” Insurance Bureau of Canada reports on their website.  Some of their tips include:
1. Never leave valuables in your automobile. If you must leave them in the car, keep them out of site.
2. Never leave your car unlocked and unattended, even if only for 30 seconds.
3. Park in a well-lit area.
4. Park in a garage if you can.
5. Choose attended parking lots if possible.
6. Install Boomerang or similar devices to help recovery.
7. Install video monitoring (dash cam).
“Auto theft is big business,” said Rick Dubin, Vice President of Investigative Services at IBC. “Property owners can fight back.”